The Fix Is In

Mark Wnek, writing yesterday in The Independent had this to say:

The number of people in or around the ad business spouting about the future “beyond advertising” etc etc is climbing up to the thousands.
In most cases these people are either commentators with no fiscal attachment to the accuracy of their predictions; people from ailing companies who would love it known that actually their poor performance in easily quantifiable areas is the result of their lack of interest in those areas and their “pioneering” activities in other, impossible to quantify areas; or people starting companies who need to have something “modern” to say.
The more you listen to this talk about “media neutral” thinking, “integration”, “content” etc, the more it reminds you of schoolboys threatening each other.
But who has actually done anything radical, new and effective “beyond advertising” over the past decade? Only US agency Fallon with their 15-minute mini-films for BMW directed by and starring major Hollywood talent, and viewable only online.
Meanwhile the mouthing off continues, at its essence assertions and counter-assertions as to what the most important new medium (for which read “canvas”) for commercial messaging will be. Once this frankly rudimentary process is over, who will fill these canvases in a way that excites consumers? The creative ladies and gentlemen who live in advertising agencies, that’s who. In your haste to go beyond advertising, never ever forget who lays the golden eggs.

I agree with some of what the man says, but clearly not everything. For one, Fallon is not alone in growing the business. CP+B and Wieden have both done notable jobs creating breakthrough work that was never intended for a TV screen. I’m sure there are several more shops (and clients) that can be added to this list. But let’s look at what he gets right for a moment. He is right about the squawking, and it can be awfully tiresome.
I grasp that people disdain advertising and just as often the people responsible for it. I also grasp that the solution is not to do away with it, as many would like. The solution is to make it better, more relevant and thus more effective. While there are some in the industry that do not acknowledge the disease, I believe there are just as many who do, and those who do spend their days working on a fix.
Thanks to Johnnie Moore and James Cherkoff for the pointers.

About David Burn

Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. I worked for seven agencies in five states before launching my own practice in 2009. Today, I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.


  1. “But who has actually done anything radical, new and effective “beyond advertising” over the past decade?”
    I’d nominate Google, eBay, Starbucks, JetBlue, among others, who have built monster businesses without high-impact advertising. The marketing is baked in. That the author cites the BMW films as the most novel marketing idea that comes to mind is probably indicative of the problem. The ‘golden eggs’ arrogance is also telling.
    So, what is it that inspires that anti-advertising animus again?

  2. Brian, great come back. Thanks.
    The BMW internet films are actually a crappy example (for him to give, or me to justify) for the very reason that they’re even more “Hollywood” than most commercials.

  3. Hi david, that’s a fair comment. Wnek was the MD of Euro RSCG which was successful in the 90s. He is soon off to the States to be the MD of a Big Agency – Grey I think. I agree about the squawking and that there some innovative people trying to create change (W&K, JWT). However, for an industry that has been preaching innovation, change and creativity to its clients, the ad business gets 2/10 when it comes to innovating in its own back yard. It’s been hooked on the ad slot for so long it can’t quite believe it’s all over….

  4. I agree with Mr Cherkoff.
    And kudos to Brian for that great comeback.
    I find Mr Wnek’s attitude… extraordinary.